TITLE: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
RATING: PG-13 overall. There are two chapters that are distinctly NC-17 and there's quite a bit of bad language used throughout.
PAIRINGS/CHARACTERS: Rachel/Quinn, Kurt, a few original characters, Brittany/Santana
SPOILERS: All of Season 1. It's an AU future fic so any similarities with Season 2 are entirely coincidental.
SUMMARY: Written for a prompt at the rq_meme (AU section) and completed for last year's Glee Femslash Big Bang. If you're not into spoilers, here's a mini-summary: Quinn is shipped off to military school after the events of Season 1.
NOTES: I'm indebted to three people for helping me through this fic. They know who they are.
Judy Fabray opens the door to the uniformed men with a smile on her face. They offer no smiles in return and instead ask if they can come in. She steps to the side, her heart starting to thud loudly in her chest. She asks them if something has happened to Quinn, if she's still in Iraq. The taller of the men tells her to take a seat, which she does immediately, now fearing the worst, her hands clenched in her lap.
"Where is my daughter?" she asks, trying to keep her voice as calm as possible. Quinn couldn't be dead. They had talked a couple of weeks ago, just for a few minutes, just long enough to let Judy know that she'd be home at the end of August.
"We don't know, ma'am," the stockier of the men says. His voice is kinder than that of the taller man. He introduces himself as Captain Adams, the taller of the men is Colonel Thompson. He relays Quinn's last movements and that they haven't been able to trace her whereabouts for just over a week. There had been an attack and Quinn's body hadn't been recovered in the rubble.
"She isn't dead?" Judy asks, heart still hammering in her chest. The two men exchange a quick glance.
"At this time, we can neither confirm nor deny…" the Colonel says, extending his hand to the rapidly deteriorating Mrs. Fabray.
"What do you mean you can neither 'confirm nor deny'?" Judy asks, getting to her feet. "How can you notknow where my daughter is?"
Quinn is aware of little things at first: the rising and falling of her chest; the steady beep of the heart monitor. She tenses her fingers, surprised to find woollen blankets covering her battered body. When she stretches her legs, the muscles pull uncomfortably, probably through lack of use, she figures, although she isn't sure how long she's been in this place, slowly drifting in and out of consciousness for what feels like days, maybe weeks. Her eyes squeeze tighter shut as the ringing in her ears returns and she opens her mouth to scream, only to find she has no voice. A tube is lodged in her throat.
Suddenly, she panics, thrashing her arms out, ignoring the pain that shoots through her body. Footsteps approach and she feels hands holding her down, urgent voices talking to her, but she can't make out their words. The tube is pulled out of her throat and she gasps, filling her lungs up as much as she can before screaming this time. The hands pinning her arms and legs loosen for a second and it's all she needs to throw herself off the bed onto the hard floor. She forces her eyes open but can't focus. The harsh fluorescent lighting burns her retinas and after trying to push herself up, she becomes still, breaths escaping from her mouth in quick pants. She has no energy to get herself off the cold floor.
"Easy there," a voice says in her ear over the ringing. Hands lift her back onto the bed and she curls up on her side, grimacing as her muscles pull and tighten. The voices fade out as the high-pitched humming assaults her ears and she remembers the blast. She remembers flying through the air, being buried beneath rubble, screaming for help until her lungs gave out. She doesn't remember how she ended up in the hospital but she's pretty sure it isn't military.
The drugs in her IV work their magic and she drifts off into dreams of home, of a life she can scarcely remember when she's awake.
The phone buzzes loudly on the bedside table, ignored by its owner whose head is buried beneath four pillows. She's in no mood to be woken up this early after finishing shooting at four in the morning and she's already vowed that her next movie will take place in Hawaii or somewhere hot where night shoots don't involve wrapping oneself in three layers to keep warm between takes.
The phone won't stop so she reaches a hand over to the bedside table and fumbles with the touch screen that she's never fully managed to get the hang of.
"Rachel Berry," she mutters, lifting her head slightly before letting it drop back onto the pillows.
"Rachel, it's Finn," she closes her eyes and exhales heavily, ready to end the call when she notices that he sounds upset. She rolls onto her back and picks up the phone, pressing it to her ear after switching it off speaker mode.
"What's wrong?" she asks, although she already knows. She's had a feeling that this day would come eventually. The room shifts sideways as her heart gives an uneven thump and she closes her eyes to stop her world from spinning.
"Quinn's dead," he says it so quietly that Rachel almost doesn't hear him the first time. His voice fades away as the phone slips from her hand and lands on the bedspread with a dull thud. She can hear him shouting her name but she ignores it and slides out of bed, walking quickly to the kitchen to pour herself a very large glass of water.
The procession follows the closed coffin, wrapped in the American flag, through the cemetery until it reaches Quinn's final resting place. Judy and Quinn's older sister, Olivia, are immediately behind it followed by other members of the family who live close by. Some of Quinn's friends from military school who aren't currently serving are next, dressed in full-blown military regalia. And at the back, Quinn's friends from High School, from Glee Club especially and a few of the former Cheerios who still live in Lima.
As they pass by Russell Fabray's grave, Olivia casts a glare at the small, modest tombstone and more tears spring to her eyes. He'd been the one who sent Quinn to military school. If he hadn't, they wouldn't be here right now. She grasps her mother's hand tighter and wipes the tears from her face with the back of her free hand.
Rachel walks with Kurt and Mercedes, just in front of Santana and Brittany, irritated that her presence in the church drew more attention than the service itself. Today isn't supposed to be about her. Even now as they walk through the cemetery, members of Quinn's family keep turning around to look at her before whispering in their neighbour's ears. She finds that she can't look at the coffin for more than five seconds before wanting to burst into tears and instead glances around at the graves of people who have already left this plane.
As they reach the graveside, Rachel spots someone in the distance, half hidden among a small copse of trees. She slides her sunglasses down her nose but the person has disappeared. Rachel shivers slightly, trying to convince herself that she's just seeing things, as tears start to splash onto her cheeks and Finn slides an arm around her shoulders, mercifully saying nothing.
Quinn darts between the trees, ducking under branches, and pulls on a helmet and gloves as she walks quickly towards the perimeter wall of the cemetery. After checking that no-one is watching, she pulls herself up over the wall and drops lightly onto the ground on the other side where her transportation is waiting. She climbs onto her motorbike, takes a couple of deep breaths, trying to stop the tears that are building rapidly behind her eyes and peels off down the street. This, undoubtedly, is the worst idea she's had in years.
After the priest finishes, crossing Quinn's body for the final time, the crowd starts to disperse. Rachel watches as Judy and Olivia are helped by Finn and Noah back to the cars waiting outside the cemetery. Once everyone is gone, she presses a kiss to the rose in her hand and lays it on the headstone. Her vision blurs again as she reads the epitaph and leans down to trace her fingers over the gold letters.
"Excuse me, are you Rachel Berry?" a quiet voice asks behind her. She straightens up before turning around, wiping away the last of the tears that have managed to escape from behind her sunglasses. One of the women dressed in uniform is standing a few feet away, holding an envelope in her hand.
"Yes," Rachel replies, walking towards the stranger, who removes her hat and inclines her head.
"I'm Natasha Parker. I served with Quinn in Iraq a couple of years ago," the woman says, extending her hand to Rachel. "Quinn spoke about you a lot. She said that you two wrote letters to each other." Rachel nods. "She didn't carry many personal effects, just a couple of pictures and a pad of paper." Natasha holds out the envelope to the shorter woman. "I was asked to deliver this to you." Rachel grasps the envelope tightly, taking off her sunglasses to give the woman a sad smile.
"Thank you," Rachel says. The two walk out of the cemetery together in silence. Kurt and Mercedes are waiting in their rental car, the engine already running. "I should go. Thank you… for this though. I wish we could have met under different circumstances."
Natasha nods and gives Rachel a small smile as she turns and makes her way to her own car. Rachel slides into the backseat of Kurt's car and he pulls away towards the Fabray's house where everyone is going to sit around awkwardly for a couple of hours making small talk about Quinn.
"Kurt, I don't feel up to this," Rachel says. "Could you take me to my house?" She turns the envelope over in her hands.
"Sure, Rach," Kurt replies, changing direction. They both fix her with a sympathetic look as she gets out of the car and Mercedes starts to cry again as Kurt pulls away. Rachel goes straight to her room, ignoring the calls from her fathers and closes the door. She rips the envelope open, pouring its contents onto her bedspread. Three photographs and a writing pad tumble out. She flicks through the photographs: one taken at their final Glee rehearsal of the whole group, one of Quinn, Brittany and Santana two weeks before Quinn went off to military school and another of Rachel and Quinn the following summer when Quinn came home for a couple of weeks. Rachel chokes out a sob as she runs a finger over the photograph of the two of them: Quinn's arm slung casually around Rachel's shoulders, both laughing at something long forgotten by Rachel.
"Summer 2011, R and Q."
She sets the photograph down on the bed and picks up the writing pad. The cover is slightly worn and the pages are dirty but it's the paper that Quinn had been using to send her letters over the past few years. The pad is nearly finished and an incomplete letter stares up at Rachel from the first page.
18th June 2023
Congratulations on getting the part! I knew you were worrying about the audition for no reason. I can't wait to see the movie when I get back.
Things are getting less difficult here. My Arabic is getting quite good now that we're spending more time with the civilians (thanks for sending those wordlists). Some of the children at the local school we've set up are helping me and we're helping them learn some English. They found out that I play guitar (though it's been a while so I use the term 'play' liberally) so they constantly ask me to play them some songs. Unfortunately some of them are ones we sang in Glee so keeping it together is hard sometimes. Thankfully, some of the guys in my troop can carry a tune so it's not a complete disaster.
In response to your last letter, I think a trip to New York would be amazing. I'll be back in Ohio at the end of August. I can't believe it's been nearly ten years since we last saw each other. I don't know how much we'll have to catch up on though, you've kept me thoroughly updated in your letters. (Did things ever work out with that co-star of yours or did you drive him away with your constant barrage of nonsensical rambling? I'm kidding, I actually miss your ramblings. Clearly there's something wrong with me.)
I'm about to go out on patrol for the night, things are a little restless today so they're sending out twice as many of us to keep an eye on things. There's this weird feeling in the air, like something big is going to happen.
Thanks, again, for writing to me. You've no idea how much I truly
The letter ends there. Rachel flips to the next page, finding it blank. She places the pad of paper down next to the photographs and just stares at them until her vision clouds and the tears overwhelm her again, crying herself into unconsciousness.
Quinn holds out her ID and passport bearing her new name for inspection at the gate of a private airfield not far from Cleveland. The guard nods and she flips the visor down on her helmet before riding towards the terminal building. A plane is waiting for her. The pilot is filling in boxes on a Sudoku puzzle, pencil twirling in his fingers while he works out where his next '8' goes. Quinn cuts her engine and hops off the bike.
"How was it?" Mac asks, glancing up as Quinn pulls off her helmet and gloves, running a hand over the almost-healed scar just below her hairline.
"Awful," Quinn says without emotion. "It was a stupid idea. Can we go? I need to get away from this place."
"Sure thing," Mac replies. He signals to an unseen person who is hidden behind tinted glass at the other end of the terminal. The cargo door of the plane lowers. Quinn wheels her bike inside and secures it under Mac's guidance. "You're not the first Agent to go to their own funeral. I imagine you won't be the last."
"I don't want to talk about it, Mac," Quinn says softly, hopping down from the cargo bay and climbing into the cockpit of the plane. She waits silently for Mac to finish his pre-flight checks and tries to forget the looks on their faces, desperately trying not to think about the life she's leaving behind. Mac climbs into the seat next to her and readies the plane for take-off.
"Goodbye, yellow brick road," he says as they taxi along the runway and leave Lima, Ohio far behind.
Rachel is roused from sleep by repetitive thumping on her front door. She stumbles from her bed, tripping as she tries to pull on the jeans she'd left on her bedroom floor the night before. Or earlier that morning. She isn't entirely sure what time, or day, it is and her sleeping pattern is still upset by the night shoots she's been on for the past two months, minus her short break to Lima. This is her first full two days off since the funeral.
"Kurt," she says, pulling open the door after she's checked to see who it is.
"Rachel," he replies, brushing past her, bags of shopping in both hands. She stares after him, frowning slightly before pushing the door closed and flipping the latch on. "It's Friday." Rachel follows the sound of Kurt's voice to her lounge where he's emptying the bags, laying the contents on her couch.
"It is Friday," Rachel remarks, folding her arms across her chest and staring at the man sitting on her floor. "Should that mean something?"
"Brittany's birthday," he says. Rachel's mouth drops and she presses a hand to her forehead. "And you forgot…"
"I didn't forget…" Rachel says quickly. "I didn't realise it was the thirtieth…"
"Thirty-first," Kurt corrects, wagging a finger at the brunette. "I know you haven't felt like going out lately and as your friends, we understand that. So, we thought that since you have the biggest apartment, we could order take-out, watch some movies, have a sleepover… like old times." Rachel had started preparing a speech in her head as soon as Kurt mentioned 'birthday', listing the reasons she wouldn't be able to go out.
"It's been years since we did that," Rachel concedes. "Do I have any say whatsoever?"
"No," Kurt says simply. "Mercedes is picking up Brittany and Santana in an hour, so you should probably go shower."
"Yes, mom," Rachel says before swooping down to give Kurt a hug, knocking the air out of his lungs.
"Too tight, Rach," he whispers and she relaxes her hold on him. "I brought some new clothes. I know that you're perfectly capable of doing your own shopping now and that your argyle days are well and truly behind you, but I saw some things and thought of you." He holds up a couple of shirts before passing them to Rachel. "And some new jeans."
"You shouldn't have," she says. "You have to let me pay for them…"
"Rachel, just because you're a big movie star and earning millions of dollars per minute doesn't mean that yourfriendsaren't allowed to treat you every now and then," he says firmly. "Now, shower." Rachel nods, feeling her eyes water slightly before leaving the lounge, clutching the shirts and jeans to her chest.
She showers quickly and throws on the new clothes Kurt has brought over, smoothing them down and looking up at her reflection in the full-length mirror. She takes a step closer, examining her reflection a little more intently. She wonders if her sixteen year old self ever imagined that she'd be best friends with Kurt Hummel ten years after leaving high school.
"Rach? How are the clothes?" Kurt's voice drifts through the door and snaps Rachel back to the present. She opens the door and he looks her up and down appraisingly before nodding once and smiling. "My taste in clothes is impeccable, as usual. I don't suppose you have anything in the form of snacks?" Rachel shakes her head. "Alcohol?" Rachel shakes her head again, making a face. Her last experience with alcohol, almost ten years ago, had been enough to put her off for life. Kurt sighs. "Do you at least have take-out menus?" Rachel beams at this and leads him into her spotless kitchen. "I see you've put those home cooking DVD's I gave you last Christmas to good use," he notes, running a finger over the worktop, collecting dust as he does so.
"I've been working…" Rachel starts to protest.
"You need to take better care of yourself, Rachel," Kurt says. "You look like a ghost. Starving yourself to death isn't going to bring her back."
Rachel purses her lips and swings round to face him. He regrets his words instantly and reaches out to place a hand on Rachel's shoulder.
"Don't," she whispers weakly, pushing his hand away. "I'm not starving myself. I'm not trying to bring her back. It's just work… with these night shoots, my sleeping and eating habits are completely out of control." Kurt nods, still looking a little unsure. "I'll try harder, okay? When I get back to normal shoots, I'll start buying food and I swear the first meal I make, you can come over and enjoy it with me. Or get food poisoning." She smiles up at the taller man and he closes the gap between them, wrapping his arms around her.
"I just worry about you," he says, resting his chin against her temple and squeezing her tightly.
"I know," Rachel sighs.
The day that cemented their friendship stands out in Rachel's memory. A week before their senior year started, Rachel and Finn had had an argument. They'd started to drift apart towards the end of their Junior year and had spent less and less time together over the summer vacation. The day after Quinn had left to go back to military school, they'd gone out for dinner and had nothing to talk about. Rachel had picked at her food, barely making eye-contact with Finn who in turn had snapped while driving them to his house. The argument had continued in Finn's room where their shouts were overheard by Kurt. Eventually, Rachel ran out of things to say and stormed out of the house. Kurt ran after her and found her sitting on the pavement outside the Hudson-Hummel home, head buried in her palms. He slid an arm around Rachel's shoulders.
"I know how it feels," he said. "To love someone and not have them realise it."
"I don't love Finn," she responded, a weight lifting from her shoulders as she admitted it for the first time, though she was confused by the boy's words. Kurt had given her a sad smile and squeezed her shoulder.
"I wasn't talking about Finn," he had said and waited for the brunette to stop floundering before smiling at her again. "I won't tell anyone."
"Thank you," Rachel said finally, resting her head against his shoulder.
The doorbell rings and Rachel jumps slightly. Kurt removes himself from Rachel's arms and goes to answer the door, leaving the brunette clutching at the take-out menus. She shakes her head, trying to clear out the cobwebs of the past and goes to greet her friends. Brittany is carrying sleeping bags, Santana holds up two bags of clinking bottles while Mercedes struggles under the weight of grocery bags filled with Doritos and cookies. Rachel takes the sleeping bags from Brittany and tosses them into the lounge before hugging the blonde.
"Happy birthday! I'm sorry I forgot," Rachel says.
"It's okay," the taller woman replies, spinning Rachel around in her arms before setting her back on the ground and placing a kiss on her cheek. "You can buy me something amazing later." Rachel laughs and helps Mercedes with the food.
"Don't worry," Mercedes says, dumping the bags on the counter in the kitchen. "We got some of those horrible veggie chips you like so much."
"Yum," Rachel says, unpacking the bags and laying everything out. "Those chips are really good for you. Low in fat, high in vitamins…"
"They taste like cardboard, girl," Mercedes interjects with a laugh. "I'll be sticking to my Doritos."
In the lounge, Santana and Brittany are already occupying one couch and Kurt is in one of the reclining chairs perusing the take-out menus. Rachel eyes the shot glasses on the coffee table warily.
"Guys, we're not eighteen anymore," she says, settling down next to Mercedes and gesturing at the glasses. "Are the shots really necessary?"
"Brittany's choice," Santana holds up her hands in a defensive pose. "And it's her birthday."
"I guess one shot won't hurt," Rachel says with a roll of her eyes as Santana starts to pour golden liquid into the glasses, managing not to spill a single drop.
"To Louis Vuitton," Kurt announces, holding up his shot glass. Three other glasses rise up to meet his. Rachel sits back, amused by how many things they've found to toast so far, including Doritos, Hollywood and ducks.
"Okay, okay, I have one," Santana says, looking serious all of a sudden. She pours five shots and pushes one towards Rachel who reluctantly lifts her glass off the table. "To Quinn." The Latina's eyes lock with Rachel's who swallows the shot in one gulp and makes a face.
"To Quinn," everyone else repeats before drinking their shot of tequila. Rachel slides off the couch and walks quickly to the bathroom where she sits on the edge of the bath and stares at the tiles beneath her bare feet, frowning at nothing in particular. A gentle knock on the door causes her to look up. Santana edges into the room looking sheepish.
"Sorry," she says, joining Rachel on the side of the bath.
"Why?" Rachel asks, looking back down at the floor.
"For bringing her up," she says. "I shouldn't…"
"Why shouldn't we?" Rachel interrupts. "I'm trying to act like she didn't even exist, Santana, and why? It isn't making me feel any better. It's ridiculous. I need to tell you guys something." She grabs Santana's hand and drags her back into the lounge. The other three stop talking and turn towards Rachel expectantly. Santana drops back onto the couch next to Brittany, resting her head on the blonde's shoulder. "Quinn could have been here tonight."
"What?" Kurt asks, raising an eyebrow in confusion.
"Her latest tour was due to end this month. She was going to be home by the end of August and she was going to come to New York," Rachel says in a rush.
"How do you know that?" Mercedes asks. "Did you speak to her while she was over there?"
"We wrote to each other," Rachel says, drawing a shaky breath. "For the past few years, Quinn and I have written to each other. The envelope that Natasha gave me after the funeral?" Kurt and Mercedes nod. "Inside it, there were a few photographs and a letter that she never finished." Rachel turns towards the desk next to the bay window and retrieves the envelope, sliding the contents out. Mercedes gasps as she looks at the photograph of the Glee club.
"Oh my god, what the hell am I wearing?" she asks, showing Kurt who laughs in return. Santana has picked up the notepad and is reading through the letter while Brittany stares at the photograph of Rachel and Quinn, her eyes darting up to meet the brunette's face every so often.
Kurt and Mercedes read the letter next.
"What co-star is she talking about?" Kurt asks, glancing up at Rachel who blushes and sighs heavily.
"There was no co-star," she says. "At least no co-star that I wanted to date. Obviously there wereco-stars..."
"Why lie about something like that?" Mercedes asks. "Why would Quinn care if you're seeing anyone or not?"
"The same reason she broke up with Finn," Santana says, glancing between Mercedes and Rachel, a look of surprise on her face as though the penny has just dropped even though she's known the answer for years. "The same reason you couldn't face seeing everyone after the funeral. The same reason you've been completely cut up since Finn called to tell you the news."
Rachel nods, wrapping her arms around herself as the tears start to fill her eyes, the room starts to blur around the edges. Kurt is there first to keep her upright.
"It's okay," he whispers, rubbing his hand in circles across her back. He leads her back over to the couch as the others watch on, feeling helpless.
"I wanted her to think that I was happy, that I wasn't waiting for her. I was…" Rachel whispers before shaking her head. "I am in love with Quinn."